Up to 1,000 children could have suffered in Britain’s worst known abuse scandal – where sex gangs targeted girls as young as 11.
The rape hell of vulnerable young girls in one town – Telford – went on for a shocking 40 years, the Sunday Mirror can reveal.
As many as 1,000 children could have suffered at the merciless hands of perverts and torturers in Telford since the 1980s.
Girls as young as 11 have been lured from their families to be drugged, beaten and raped in an epidemic that, say victims, is still ongoing.
THREE people were murdered and two others died in tragedies linked to the scandal.
Despite similar high-profile cases in Rochdale and Rotherham, authorities in Telford repeatedly failed to stamp out a network of abusers.
The Mirror’s 18-month investigation reveals abuse on unprecedented levels. We found:
- Social workers knew of abuse in the 1990s but police took a decade to launch a probe
- Council staff viewed abused and trafficked children as “prostitutes” instead of victims, according to previously unseen files
- Authorities failed to keep details of abusers from Asian communities for fear of “racism”
- Police failed to investigate one recent case five times until an MP intervened
- One victim said cops tried to stop her finding out why her abusers had not been prosecuted because they feared she would talk to us
The scale of the abuse uncovered in Telford – population 170,000 – is feared to be the most brutal and long-running of all.
The Rotherham toll was put at 1,500 – but that was in a community of 260,000.
Telford’s Tory MP Lucy Allan has demanded a public inquiry and said our findings were “extremely serious and shocking”.
She said: “There must now be an independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Telford so that our community can have absolute confidence in the authorities.”
Specialist child abuse solicitor Dino Nocivelli, of Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: “These children were treated as sexual commodities by men who inflicted despicable acts of abuse.
“The survivors deserve an inquiry. They need to know how abuse took place for so long and why so many perpetrators have never been brought to justice.”
Our investigators have spoken to 12 victims, most of them unconnected.
They accused more than 70 abusers and claimed that violent rapes were still taking place just months ago.
One 14-year-old, groomed and abused after her phone number was sold to paedophiles, said: “I hated what was happening and my abusers made my skin crawl but I was told that if I said a word to anyone they’d come for my little sisters and tell my mum I was a prostitute.
“Night after night, I was forced to have sex with multiple men in disgusting takeaways and filthy houses.
“I must have been getting the morning after pill from a local clinic at least twice a week but no one asked any questions.
“I fell pregnant twice and had two abortions. Hours after my second termination, I was taken by one of my abusers to be raped by more men.
“The worst moment came just after my 16th birthday when I was drugged and gang raped by five men.
“Days later, the ringleader turned up at my house and told me he’d burn it down if I breathed a word of what had happened.”
Documents which will be passed to the Home Office reveals authorities knew of the horrors a decade before investigating – and shows how they tried to hamper our probe.
We presented our findings to Professor Liz Kelly, from the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University.
She helped estimate the number of victims based on figures gathered by our investigators.
Sheila Taylor, of the NWG Network, worked on the Rotherham Inquiry. She said the true scale of the Telford problem might never be known because many victims were unlikely to come forward.
She said: “There is probably a whole cohort of young people that are not identified.
A police investigation called Operation Chalice identified more than 100 potential victims abused between 2007 and 2009.
Cops also said there could be as many as 200 perpetrators – but just nine were caged and the case was then closed.
Today our investigation reveals the authorities were told of the abuse epidemic more than a decade before Chalice.
Our probe – backed by documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act – found two predatory paedophiles began targeting girls from a local children’s home in 1981.
One of the abusers earned thousands a night for years trafficking girls around the country for sex with hundreds of men, according to one victim.
In another case, a 14-year-old was groomed by an 18-year-old Asian man in 1985.
After she had his baby he passed her to friends to have sex with and allegedly rape her.
The girl, now 47, says she reported her abuse to the council and school but does not believe action was taken.
She says her doctor said she was mentally ill and should take medication.
The vast majority of those targeted were young white girls but teenagers from the Asian community also fell victim.
One report commissioned by local Telford and Wrekin Council in 2013 admitted: “From the late 1990s professionals had concerns about the nature of some of the child sexual abuse cases presented to them.”
But it blamed “understanding and learning at that time” and “existing procedures”.
Two separate investigations were launched at the same time as Operation Chalice after two victims named dozens more abusers.
The victim in one case – groomed at 13, sold for sex and gang raped – said she pulled out of the investigation because she “didn’t feel she was being emotionally supported” by police.
Another victim claims officers discouraged her from pursuing her request for evidence after she told them she was speaking to the Mirror.
Lucy Lowe, 16, was killed in 2000 along with her mother and sister after her 26-year-old abuser Azhar Ali Mehmood set fire to their house.
Cabbie Mehmood targeted Lucy in 1997 and she was just 14 when she gave birth to his daughter.
He was jailed for murdering Lucy, her mum Eileen and 17-year-old sister Sarah.
But he was never arrested nor charged in connection with any child sex crimes over his illegal relationship with the schoolgirl.
Lucy’s death was used as a warning to other girls, according to victims. One, drugged and gang raped by nine men two years later, said the threats drove her to attempt suicide.
She said: “I was scared my family would die like Lucy’s. I thought they’d only be safe if I killed myself.”
If you or someone you know has been affected by the abuse in Telford, please contact the Sunday Mirror: firstname.lastname@example.org
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